NY Music Review by Paulanne Simmons
According to Carole J. Bufford, the blues are all about “a good woman feeling bad.” If that’s the case she must be a very good woman feeling very, very bad. But the odd thing is, despite the sultry voice with its soulful wail, and the long sheath with the revealing slit, Bufford looks very much like the girl next door, who just happens to be belting the blues.
In her new show at the Metropolitan Room, Shades of Blue, Bufford informs the audience that she was introduced to the blues at the age of 13, when she was given a double Bessie Smith album for a birthday present. Her rendition of “Send Me to the ‘Lectic Chair” is a loving tribute to Smith. “Lovesick Blues” and the naughty “I Didn’t Like It the First Time (The Spinach Song)” also testify to Bufford’s fealty to the roots of blues.
However, Bufford is also a savvy, cosmopolitan singer who knows that for many, the blues live mostly in it’s various offspring. She reminds the audience that rock n’ roll is merely the blues slowed down, and proves it by offering slow and sexy versions of “All Shook Up” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.” And she demonstrates that the blues have crossed paths with country, as exemplified by Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” and crossed the Atlantic, with the Beatles’ “Oh! Darlin’”
Bufford also knows that traces of the blues are found in unusual places, created by unlikely artists. So we have Kurt Weill and Langston Hughes’ “Lonely House,” which gives blues an operatic touch. And blues can be perfected by commercially successful musicians like Harold Arlen (“The Man that Got Away”) and George Gershwin (“Summertime” in this case – à la Janis Joplin).
On May 22, one of the highlights of the show came when Bufford’s college friend, special guest Danny Gardner turned his entire body into an exquisite percussion instrument as he danced while Bufford sang the early blues standard “Trouble in Mind.”
Whatever version of the blues Bufford sings, we are impressed with the power and technique she brings to every song. If the emotion is raw and the humor spontaneous, the delivery is certainly polished.
Bufford is blessed with a terrific arranger, musical director and extraordinary pianist, Ian Herman; and the very attuned bassist Steve Doyle. With co-creator and producer Scott Siegel, she has developed a song list perfectly suited to her style and talents. Her intriguing blend of gut-wrenching blues, with a joyful affirmation of life and love, makes her an irresistible presence on the cabaret scene.